We are an Affirming Ministry

 pride pride

Nelson United Church has supported Pride by marching in the parade every Labour Day weekend for 20 years. 

 

Statement of Faith and Action

God calls us to be a loving, inclusive and compassionate people,
who following Christ’s teachings,
gather to worship, celebrate the gift of love,
live with respect in creation
and seek justice and welcome for all
regardless of, but not limited to, the following:
age, race, colour, ancestry or place of origin,
gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status,
physical and mental ability
and economic status.

lentimageWe had the honour of
Dr. Marion Best
joining us on Sunday, March 9th, 2014.

She presented Nelson United Church with 
our
Affirming Ministry Certificate
from the United Church of Canada.

Marion was the 36th Moderator of the United Church of Canada, 1994-1997.
She is a well-known lay leader and
in 1998 began serving as a Vice-Moderator for the Council of Churches.

She has served as
 President of British Columbia Conference
and on the United Church’s General Council Executive,
the body that deals with
specific assignments from
 the broad vision that the General Council endorses every three years.

certificate

As a member of the national organization, Affirm United, we joined several other United Churches across Canada,
providing a safe and compassionate environment for all.
We welcome everyone to an inclusive space to explore spiritual journeys.
An equal marriage policy has been in place at Nelson United Church since 2004,
allowing for same-sex marriages to be performed by our minister.

 

Affirm congregation2 Affirm congregation1

 


 

Affirming Ministry Report
April 24, 2017.

Nelson United Church is working together to create a community that is actively practising and promoting dignity, respect and inclusiveness in a safe environment. Nelson is a community that accepts people from all different cultures, backgrounds and races, creating a uniqueness that celebrates diversity.

 Let me take my seat at the table
Even though I may be differently able
My experience, my passion the authentic me
Can help add value for your company.
I exclude no one; I am strengthened by all
My name is Diversity and yes I stand tall.
Coupled with inclusion our lights burn longer
Together we are smarter, better and stronger.

  ~ Charles Bennefield

Nelson United Church has formed partnerships with Ankors, an organization that offers support to people with Aids and Aid prevention; Trans Connect, a group that offers support for Trans folks; Kootenay Pride, a grassroots group that supports LBGT folk; and the Nelson Women’s Centre, a support and educational nonprofit society.

 Our Actions from 2016:

  • We continue to work at communication with the LBGT community; our logos, letterhead, online display indicate our inclusive safe place. We display both the rainbow flag and the trans flag in our sanctuary windows, very visible from the street. Our minister has written articles for our local newspaper indicating our policy of welcoming and including all.
  • We continue support for community organization by participation and offering or space for meetings, vigils, events and workshops.
  • We are a very visible presence during Pride Weekend in September participating in the Pride Parade, having done so since its inception 20 years ago. We also held a Pride Film evening for the community showing Conceiving Family-Adoption Stories of the LBGT and In Particular, barabara finlay.
  • We host World Aids Day in December and light candles and give a blessing as remembrance and support.
  • We attended two vigils for Orlando and the vigil to end violence against Trans folks.
  • During the four Sundays of Advent during worship, we presented four Vignettes of Dialogue featuring Gay, Lesbian, Trans and Non-Binary true stories adapted to increase awareness.
  • We have a marriage policy that is non-discriminatory.
  • Our worship services celebrate diversity. A communion liturgy specifically named LBGT as being welcome at the table. We recognized and honoured our affirming status on its anniversary and display a rainbow candle to give hope but also to remember the harm churches have caused in the past.

 We also ensure that our Board and ministry teams represent the diversity of our congregation. Discussion occurs about the use of language and we change hymn lyrics, sermons and communiqués to reflect gender inclusivity. Our washrooms are gender neutral.

 Many of us are involved in other community groups and continue to be intentional about radical welcome. We stand tall against oppression and protest against discrimination throughout the world. Direct action and advocacy are part of our belief that “we dare to live the way of Jesus, embodying the love of God”.

 


Rainbowlogo

As a recognized Affirming Congregation, we are required to submit an annual report to Affirm United indicating our continued ministry. This is the submitted report:

Affirming Church Report April 12, 2015.

It has just been a little over a year since we celebrated becoming an Affirming Congregation with the presentation of our certificate by Marion Best, past Moderator of the National Church. We have continued our ministry of welcome for all and partnerships with related organizations.

Our actions and commitments have included:

• Adaptation of our past logo to include a rainbow. This can be seen on our website at www.nelsonunitedchurch.ca
• Participation in the National Anti-violence Against Transgender Vigil in November. This takes place on our main street and results in awareness and inclusivity, and an awareness of the work still to do to ensure that all can be safely who they are. Our minister, David Boyd spoke at this event and has for a number of years.
• Supported financially a transgendered person who travelled to Peru to volunteer a small village and school.
• Entered a team in the annual Aids Walk in partnership with Ankors, a local organization that supports persons living with Aids.
• The Chair of our Board was a member of a steering committee for TransConnect, a community organization to support Transgendered persons and provide education to community organizations and schools.
• Co-sponsored The World Aids Day Memorial in December. Our church hosts and facilitates this event. This is an ongoing partnership with Ankors.
• Supported a local chapter of Grans to Grans, a fundraising group that sends money to support Grandmothers in Africa who are raising their grandchildren after family members have died from Aids.
• Participated in the annual Gay Pride March and have for 17 years since its beginning. We display our church banner and show support by “making a noise” in celebration.
• Included our new logo in all weekly bulletins, web page, newsletters and letters, and in any advertising for community events.
• Our website indicates our Affirming Church status.
• Display both a pride and transgender flag in our sanctuary.
• Display a poster on our front door bulletin board that we are an Affirming Church.
• Ensured that our Board members represent the diversity in our congregation
• Are more aware of dualities in language, i.e. male/female, gay/straight, etc.
• Created signs for our washrooms that indicate they are gender inclusive.
• Worked at remaining present in the community through the private effort of those in our congregation.
• Celebrated a one year anniversary of our Affirming Status on May 3, 2015, with an emphasis on our Transgender Community

We encourage everyone to become part of our church family. There is a Social Justice team that creates partnerships with community groups and encourages engagement by the whole Nelson and area community. As many of us are involved in other community groups, we continue to hear words of gratitude and affirmation from people that the church is open, affirming and loving.

Reflection: Language continues to be a topic of dialogue: raising the question of shifting pronouns that don’t use the binary designation of him/her; be intentional in thinking about how our language can sometimes hurt others unwittingly. We have been discussing the use of words such as inclusive and accepting and welcoming and debating whether they imply “power over” in any way. If you are depending on someone to accept or welcome you, is there a sense of inequality? We may be creating a new word to indicate the “oneness” of humanity. The use of language is discussed in worship, sermons, at the Board level, and at our ministry team levels, also. We have spoken of the importance of language at study groups and other more informal gatherings.

 

Morgan Gould, May 2015
Presented in Worship May 10 to promote Stewardship.

Last week, in the US, a new video game was uploaded to a well-known digital game store called “Kill the Faggots”. The game awards points to the player who kills the most ‘faggots’, and extra points for killing transgender people. The project was created and uploaded by Randall Herman, a California video game developer. Would you be surprised to learn that the author and designer of the game is a self-avowed Christian? Mr. Hermann complained the gaming community was “overly sensitive and easily offended” when the game was removed from the site.

Moving from the world of games to the world of reality, a Christian lawyer has filed a ballot initiative to execute all gay people in California ‘by bullets to the head.’ California Attorney-General Kamala Harris has failed in her attempt to suppress the ballot initiative. The ballot reads in part that any ‘offending’ gay person “be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.” The Christian lawyer reasons that ‘it is better that offenders die rather than all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us.”

From the secular world to the church, Rich McCaffrey and his husband Erik were scheduled to have their son baptized at Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando, Florida only to be told that their son’s baptism would have to be cancelled because church members had objected. The situation is under review by the Bishop, and the parents hope for a successful outcome.

You will understand then when I say that I am full of feeling following last week’s worship that recognized and spoke to the concerns of transgender individuals.   In fact, it is the first time in my life that I have been named and welcomed as a gay man in the context of a worship service.

From our first day here, our church community at Nelson United Church welcomed us with open arms, and when the day came that the most wonderful man in the world proposed to me, we both of us knew that you, our community, would be an integral part of our wedding, and our joy. Indeed, our wedding day will be remembered as one of the happiest days of my life, a happiness multiplied a thousand fold because it was not only celebrated with you, but by you all.

After the high of getting married, Joe and I spent weeks in discussion about legal matters: wills, medical directives, and so on. We decided that on our deaths we would leave a portion of our estate to Nelson United Church. This is an expression of our gratitude to you, our church family, but more importantly, it is a gesture of support to Nelson United Church that it continues its purpose and mission far into the future.

For those of you who have never had to deal with hatred, bigotry and social exclusion from communal life, I can say that our church stands out as a rare exception. You welcomed us as gay men, but in time you came to see us as friends who are gay. Part of our legacy will be a ‘forever’ thank you to you all.

Today we launch the “Leaving a Legacy” program, and you’ll find the details in a brochure that has been prepared. In it you’ll learn about the creation of a Legacy Fund that is a vehicle for you to set aside money or other wealth from end-of-life assets rather than monthly or annual income. There are many ways to do this, and the brochure details most of the options.

Over the next month, you’ll hear from David, and Peter Busby. The capstone of our effort will be Jane Harding’s visit on June 7th when she will preach during our Sunday worship.

I hope that many of you are moved to consider a legacy gift, not least because it is part of your legacy and how you wish to be remembered, but equally because you understand that Nelson United Church is a vital, essential and critically important part of the wider Nelson community, and the larger life of Canada.

It is my honour to speak to you today, and I thank you for your kindness in listening.

 

 

By John Prochaska, posted Nov 23, 2013,  in the Nelson Star

Having experienced already some of what it means to be an Affirming Church, members of Nelson United Church gather Sunday, November 24, for worship and a decision… whether or not to declare themselves… “Affirming.” Nancy Jones, Board Chair, observes that the congregation has been on a path toward Affirming since 1992 without calling it by that name; first by putting a plan in place for equality and welcome, by adopting a marriage policy allowing their minister to marry same-sex couples. In fact, Nelson United Church participated in Nelson’s very first Gay Pride Weekend and Parade seventeen years ago and has partnered every year since with ANKORS, a support organization for those living with and at the greatest risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS and/or HCV (and having difficulty obtaining services elsewhere) co-hosting World Aid’s Day and the Aid’s Walk.  Now, the congregation is to the point of deciding whether or not to take it to the next level. Should the congregation decide to take upon themselves the mantle of “Affirming” they will be saying “We intend to be a church where all are welcome.”   Jones characterized the meeting as “perhaps a further step along the way to living ‘The Way of Jesus, embodying the Love of God’” — words from a mission statement the congregation adopted in 2012.

After 10 years of living these policy changes, there are discernible signs of this affirming influence among the members.  Newcomers are said to come away from a first visit feeling valued, worthwhile—no longer alone in the world.  Here’s what one person wrote recently who was a newcomer in 2011:

My partner and I walked into NUC for the first time that August.  We had no idea what to expect, and we didn’t know if there were any other gay people or couples who went there, or how people would receive us. We were warmly welcomed from that point in time to the present day. I have never felt anything but part of the entire group at this beautiful church.  When I announced our engagement 6 months ago there was a gasp and big applause for us. In fact, I haven’t recalled anybody visiting or newly attending there, no matter what they looked like or who they were who wasn’t welcomed and accepted in a similar manner.

Christopher Moore, who runs a program in Nelson called Trans Connect, providing support and resources for Transgender/Gender diverse folks in the East and West Kootenays, addressing Transphobia and Homophobia in our communities says,

A big piece of this work is educating people about gender diversity which helps create allies in our communities.  Members of the United Church in Nelson have really stepped forward and shown our community support, by attending a yearly event known as Trans Day of Remembrance, held worldwide on Nov. 20, a memorial for Transgender People who have lost their lives due to violence.  The church has also asked Trans Connect for educational training for member’s…their interest and openness is heartwarming.

Cheryl Dowdens, Executive Director, ANKORS, had this:

ankorsWe have experienced NUC as a church that embraces those who have often felt marginalized or discriminated against due to their sexual orientation of gender identity.   NUC members have done a great deal of reflection and have engaged in opportunities for dialogue about issues related to social justice and discrimination and worked hard to create an atmosphere of openness, love and generosity to those who may have had previous negative experiences with church-based religious groups…their very presence feels like a spiritual community affirmation and a healing gesture to those who have felt discriminated against on the basis of religion.

 

 

 

Finally, as a member of Nelson United Church since 2009 and a member of the larger Church since 1951, I too, have pondered the implications of being affirming and it brings to mind my two grandmas who were both deeply religious women.  Both were born in the latter part of the 19th century.  The first lived to the age of 97 and I saw her only once in all those years when I was age 12.  I translated her absence and apparent indifference toward me as rejection and if that’s all I had in growing up I might have concluded that life wasn’t worth living. But I had another grandma who made all the difference.  She lived for 88 years…affirming me at every turn.  She was the kind of person everyone wants to have around at every stage of their spiritual journey.   She made me feel valuable, worthwhile and…well…Nelson United Church reminds me of her.

Affirmation is a powerful ingredient of life. When it washes over us we know at last that we don’t have to go someplace else to be fixed or corrected before we can return.  It was Comedian Robin Williams’ character in the movie World’s Best Dad, who said: “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone.  It’s not.  The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

People who identify differently are often vilified and then rejected, and the fault lies not with the rejected but those who target and harm others with their actions. Nelson United Church, in becoming an affirming church, would acknowledge this harm done to others and offer a place where other identities can find expression.  Affirmation extends to all people who have been hurt or marginalized, especially when it has been the church of the past which has caused the harm. Nelson United Church, in its affirmation of all people, would seek not only redress, but to offer itself as a place where people are celebrated for who they are, and who have the personal integrity to accept and proclaim their identity.

If Nelson United Church agrees to assume the Affirming mantle, they will be the first church in the United Church’s Kootenay Presbytery to do so.  United Churches in other parts of B.C. such as Penticton, Salmon Arm, Kelowna and Kamloops are already designated as Affirming or have Affirming Church status.  If the congregation decides to continue on this path of Affirmation, look for it to seek new and transformative contacts with the Nelson community – young, adult, or old – all those in need of an affirming place for their respective spiritual journeys.

 


 

Affirm congregation

 

Affirm United’s Newsletter:   Consensus… Click to read